Arnold Palmer was the king of Golf in the early 1960’s before Jack Nicklaus came along and wrestled adulation away from him. Palmer’s legion of fans used to follow him to all the tournaments he played in. They were called “Arnie’s Army”. Being no more than ten years old, I worshiped him from afar watching him on television. On Sundays, if none of my siblings had grabbed the old black and white tv set first, I’d flip on a golf game because there was no baseball action during the period from January through March. In the early part of the afternoon, the ABC network would always seem to be broadcasting an NBA game involving the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks or Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers on the parquet floor in Beantown . By 3pm the golf matches were aired.
Basketball required a constant paying attention to the action on the court. Golf was more relaxing. But with basketball, the game was easier to understand- put the ball in the basket and get two points. The camera was capable of showing almost half the court so it was easy to pick up on the situation for both the offense and defense. With golf, it was the player against someone else that he did not have to square off against. And there was that element of going against the course itself. There was no standard size to an eighteen hole golf course nor length to each hole. But, a basket hoop was always the same number of feet above the ground and the foul line painted the same distance from the hoop.
Taking this all in, it was pretty obvious then for a nascent teen to begin to lose interest in golf and concentrate on the games he could readily play outside his house or at a park down the block or so away. The fate accompli was when Palmer began to fade from the limelight. Nicklaus never seemed to have the telegenic look or grace of Arnie. I can’t tell you the names of the guys who started winning all the big tournaments until Tiger What’s-his-face became famous. Well, there was one guy I do remember- Chi Chi Rodriguez- only because he used to poke his golf club around like a sword if he won a tourney. I didn’t watch the contests, mind you- I saw the swordplay on the sports roundup during the late night news.
My brother tried to get me interested when he was in his mid twenties after our brother-in-law gave him some of his older clubs. My brother-in-law was required to be a golfing fanatic because he was a doctor. It was part of the Hippocratic oath, I understand. My brother, a commoner so to speak, took me with him to a not-so-fancy golf course and told me how to hold the club and hit the ball at the first hole. I hacked away and did just a terrible job of moving the little sucker, so much so that I began to use four letter words to express my frustration. He told me that I couldn’t do that. I asked him why and he told me because it was a golf course. I said something like â€œbig dealâ€ and indicated that it was the last time he would be seeing me holding a club trying to swing it to hit a little ball. He agreed that it was a good idea to look for another hobby.
I used to play tennis, too, with my brother-in-law in the 1980’s. Being a doctor, he was much better at it than me. At least, I thought it was the reason. We joined a fancy indoor tennis club so we could play during the fall and winter. I think I beat him once out of about fifty matches. Then, I quit the indoor racket (ha, ha) – not because I couldn’t stand losing but because I couldn’t stand the sight of fat, bald men walking around the locker room with less than a towel around their waist talking to each other and telling jokes.
I quit playing tennis for good after I convinced a young lady who was in her early twenties and thirteen years my junior to have a match. I figured I was going to make up for the humiliation Bobby Riggs suffered when he lost that famous match to Billie Jean King. All I can say is that Bobby fared better than I did.
I used to play miniature golf on social outings but then I retired from social outings. So, if anyone wants to challenge me to a round of miniature golf I’m willing to come out of retirement but I cannot promise what I’ll say if you beat me.